Monday, May 31, 2010

A Son of South Carolina at Home in Montana


I’ve spent the past nine days in South Carolina, and there really isn’t anything like going home. The wave of heat and humidity I felt stepping off of the plane seemed more like a welcome home hug and kiss from my number one (and only, for that matter) girl. I was home for my good friend Justin’s (aka Dr. Marsh) wedding. He was married in the same church where we attended elementary school. Sipping Jack Daniels on your elementary school swing set is a good thing and I recommend it. It’s as if every sensory input at home has a story or feeling which accompanies it. My friends there are tested, loyal and true and we have years of history. I was constantly reminded that South Carolina is, and always will be, my home.

…but, if her denizens will let me be presumptuous, so is Montana. I’ve never felt such an ethereal connection with a mere locale as I do to Montana. I feel like John Denver:

He was born in the summer of his 27th year
Comin' home to a place he'd never been before
He left yesterday behind him, you might say he was born again
You might say he found a key for every door

The timeline is off but the gist is the same. What my friends in Montana and I lack in history and longevity, we make up for in the inherent promise of the future and mutual passions.

People, not geography, make a home, and I simply can’t help but feel an inordinate amount of gratitude to be able to call two places home and have the friends to go along with them.

Highlights from the past week include a charity bocce ball tournament in Greenville with the Titan Group of Adam, Bill and Kacie (here’s hoping we’ll be better at business than bocce), a dinner party thrown by my bestest cycling buddy in Columbia and his stellar wife, the best Bordeaux I’ve had in awhile thanks to Patrick and Karen, excellent grilled steaks with siblings, a slumber party with Owen (Kenny and Shari were there, too!), a Columbia Master Swingers margarita dinner, an Old Skool Outspokin’ party which also quenched my craving for live jazz, fried Chicken-n-Grits at Yesterday’s with an old friend and new friend, drinks on high at The Roof Top with Newberry’s soon-to-be “it couple,” a lower leg massage by South Carolina’s best sports massage therapist, a great wedding and rehearsal dinner, lots of swim, bike, run with the best training partner in the world, and a quasi Ben Lippen School reunion at Carolina Wild Wings, one of the worst bars in Columbia with the best service in the world, courtesy of “Hey-Hey-Hey”Aaron.

So as I return back to Missoula it is with a mass of conflicting emotions, all of them, however, overridden by gratitude. …special thanks to Adam for doing what Delta couldn’t, to Jackson and Julie for first class accommodations at Guilford Street, and my WALG’s (Western Adoptive Legal Guardians), Betsy and Jeff for Montana airport transfers and open arms.

Up next will be a welcome return to my training routine in Missoula (unwelcome, however, is news of the paving of the Kim Williams trail), a break for the liver (thanks everyone for the drinks!) and some dedicated training to undo what the South does to people, make them happy and fat.

Ryan Alexander Payne
Carolina Made, Montana Made Better

The Good Doctor

Owen ready for vacation.

The Roof Top

Kevin and me before a 1 hour, wetsuitless open water swim.


Supper Club

Outspokin' Old Garde

The Quasi-Reunion of Ben Lippen School (2002)
Carolina Wild Wings

Monday, May 17, 2010

"I gladly stand up next to you and defend her still today..."

I went to Canada. It wasn't as different as I had expected. They drive on the proper side of the road, speak a mildly understandable dialect of English, and real estate agents still smatter their pictures everywhere, but it also just wasn't right. It was too similar to the United States to be exotically interesting, yet different enough to just be annoying. But in the spirit of fully embracing the "culture" of Canada, I made a rule that while in Canada we were only allowed to listen to Canadian artists (thanks Matt for the suggestion). When I set about ensuring we had music to listen to in Canada, I bought a Bryan Adam's record with hits like "I Want to Be Your Underwear" and "The Only Thing That Looks Good On Me Is You".

Also in the music quiver: Alanis Morisette, Celine Dion and Tanya Twat (Shania Twain). As it turns out this was unnecessary since even Canadians don't like Canadian music, thus prompting their queen or emperor or whatever they have to make a law which necessitates that fully 1/3 of the music played on the radio be that of Canadian artists. Capitalism fail.

In any case, on to the races. On this trip I was accompanied by Elliot (who fell asleep), and special guest Christopher Cordingley of The trip was great! We had a sweet camping spot right next to the race, thanks to Elliot, and there was even a hot tub. My usual routine is to swim a fair amount the day before races. This didn't go so well. The water was 15.9 degrees. Apparently they use different degrees there, too. I got a brain freeze and really couldn't put my head in the water. It felt like chugging a milk shake, just without the good flavor. I quickly realized there wasn't much to do about it this close to the race except double cap it and hope for the best. The day started cool and overcast when Elliot, triathlete tracker extraordinaire, came up to me and said "Tom Evens is here," and I said "Who is Tom Evans?" Elliot then said, "He's never passed anyone in a race." This is not an uncommon occurrence for swimmers, I have probably only passed 2 or 3 people in my entire racing career, but then the other shoe dropped "and he's won 3 Ironmans." Hmm, this would be an interesting day. Tom Evans was out of the water a full minute ahead of me, so I just put my head down and went to work. There was a ghastly hill about a mile into the ride and the hills didn't let up. The ride was actually very scenic, through the wine country of Canada. Then it began to Canada's only desert. I slowly lost places on the bike, but then I went from 5th to 9th in 30 seconds as an unapologetic paceline flew by me. Lame. There were no officials at all watching the lead of the Olympic distance race. I was really pretty happy with my run, I dug deep and tried to keep my form together and managed to only get passed by one person. I finished 10th overall and went 2:10. All in all I had hoped to place higher and to have gone faster, but given the competition there and the course I was really happy to be within 6% of the winner's time, who, as it turns out, was not Tom Evans. Elliot, managed an extremely solid 2nd place finish in the Sprint distance race, fully 4 years since his last race, and Chris Cordingley, of, placed 3rd in his age group, but was unfortunately outsprinted by a girl; a girl who was very angry because I yelled "Chris, you're being outsprinted by a girl." She then gave many angry looks to me and Chris.

As an uninteresting side note, on the way to Canada we retraced a day of riding from the Habitat Bicycle Challenge, Spokane to Grand Coulee. It was much faster and more comfortable in a car, but made me reminisce about the good times on that trip and the worst laser light show in the history of the United State (sorry J).

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

An Adventure

I accidentally signed up for an Olympic distance race in Oliver, BC this Sunday. Let me unravel this for you. British Columbia is apparently a province in Canada, which is a country to our north. I am told that a province would be analogous to a state in the United States but because they're Canadian they called it the wrong name. To my surprise, Canada does more than maple syrup and put on snowless winter Olympics; they are also in the triathlon business. My profound apologies to Mrs. Olshine (8th grade geography teacher), but I was unaware that Montana is next to Canada until I drove out here in 2004 and turned the page of the atlas from Idaho to Montana and saw an enormous swath of green on top of Montana. I initially mistook this for Glacier National Park, it was, unfortunately, Canada.

On to the accidental part. Having been dealing wish some small nagging injuries over the past month, I was reluctant to sign up and had in fact decided not to race for a couple reasons: 1) I was most fearful of re-injuring myself. 2) I feel as though I'm not ready to put together a good Olympic distance race (1 mile swim, 24 mile bike, 6.2 mile run). Having decided that my injuries are sufficiently under control I talked it over with Elliot and Linsey.

When Linsey Corbin gives you advice on training or racing, it's probably a good idea to listen. Over coffee after a Big Kids Swim Lounge she said, "you should race." So I'm going to race. Worst case scenario, I'll learn something new about racing this distance, get in an awesome workout, and gain a significant amount of information about where my racing fitness is. Best case scenario, I'll be able to wrangle each discipline into a quality race and surprise myself.

I am excited though because as Canada is a completely different country, this will be my first international race... how cosmopolitan. Now just to learn to drive on the other side of the road, speak Canadian and figure out what the heck a "mounty" is.

Wellspring of knowledge and profound advice, Linsey Corbin:

(she's the one on the left)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Standing Right Beside Ben

So if any of you do half as much Facebook stalking as I do, you will likely know that my favorite movie is Gattaca. Yeah, I can hear you laughing and, trust me, I wish my favorite movie was some epic tale, profound artistic work or culture influencing saga, but it's not. In any case, there is a scene where Vincent, the main character, is watching a space launch not as an astronaut but as a janitor from the space agency. "I was never more certain of how far away I was from my goal than when I was standing right beside it."

Last weekend I had the opportunity to go to St. George, Utah to watch my friend and fellow Mountain Endurance athlete, Ben, compete in the inaugural St. George Ironman, and let me tell you it was well worth the 24 hours of driving. On what is being touted as potentially the most difficult Ironman course, Ben finished 2nd overall in a remarkable 8:52.

I understood what it was Vincent was saying. The simultaneous physical proximity and theoretical distance between where you and are where you want to be is often difficult to assimilate. Fortunately I had twelve hours to think about this on the way home while Elliot did this:

I realized that the distance one must travel is what makes this lifestyle an adventure and fundamentally fulfilling. There are no guarantees in chasing a dream, but the possibilities drive me nonetheless.

Other than the race, weekend highlights included seeing the sun again (we seem to have lost ours in Missoula), meeting Ben's friends and family (including the Cobbs who opened their home to us several times and another Mountain Endurance pro and all around good guy, Jesse), and a solid 75 mile ride on and around the race course, directed by Elliot, for the sole purpose of cheering. However, the best part of the weekend was eating at what must be the only Chik-fil-A outside of Dixie.